Nov 18, 2015

Mama Mushu: The Cutest Cultural Lesson.

It began a few weeks ago in my classes on campus.

A student looked at me, giggled, and said, "Mama Mushu." I thought it was super cute. Laughed. And was like, 'yup, Mushu is my baby!' and didn't think about it again. Until a few days later when the day guard's wife called me, 'Mama Mushu!' when I returned home from the market. 'Mama Mushu, Dushaka, Mushu!' (bring me Mushu), she said. I was like, "Ok," and grabbed the cat to go see her. (He's really the greatest sport ever in the history of cats).

Then it became everyday. Cleaning ladies, people in the market, was like 'Mama Mushu' had caught on and I had no idea how. Amusing, yes. But still super random.

Last week in Gisenyi I was laying on the hotel bed reading a book about Rwandan history. And then I saw it! The author described his mother as, "Mama Joseph." I threw the book down and excitedly explained to Leanne, my co-worker/friend/co-traveler, that Rwandans in Kibungo have been referring to be as 'Mama Mushu' and here was someone in my book being referred to as her oldest sons name, 'Mama Joseph."

"Oh ya, that's normal," she said. She then told me of a woman she knew last year who was referred to as 'Mama John,' whose name she never got, because that's just what people called her - 'Mama John.'

Mystery solved. I am being called after my first son. 'Mama Mushu.'

If that doesn't endear you to Rwandan culture, I don't know what will. How hilarious that they have joined me in the personification of my cat. It's cute, it's sweet, it's hilarious, and it is a piece of their culture I get to play along with!

I've been missing being able to play along in another culture. In China I had jokes I could pull out for any situation. Here, my Chinese jokes don't work well in English or aren't culturally funny and I don't know enough Kinyarwanda to do anything really, much less be funny in the language. So now I have my opportunity to be funny in Rwandan culture! I can call myself 'Mama Mushu' and make people laugh.


All the context clues came together and I get it now. I'm Mama Mushu.

Mu on our new kitenge quilt. 

walk slow. xoxo. 

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